News, Culture & Society

An Eastern Philosophy for Diet and Health

The Japanese are well known for longevity, and most people simplify the reason for this as their undying love for fish instead of red meats. While this is a contributing factor to the Japanese having a propensity for good cardiac health, there is another big reason for this besides that elusive factor we all deal with: heredity and genetics.

Food Combining For Better Health and Weight Control

The Japanese have established a way of eating called shoku iku, which is a set of principles they have attached to eating. The types of food that are eaten, the way that foods are combined, and the frequency and size of those meals are all considered. Meal planning goes from week to week, instead of every day. The main flavor types (sour, bitter, sweet and salty – plus the Japanese-invented umami, or ‘savory’) should always be balanced, and eating a wide variety of colors when combining raw vegetables is encouraged.

The primary guide for weight control, gut health, and energy is to combine different kinds of foods correctly. One main thing to remember is that lean proteins should not be mixed with noodles, rice, potatoes, or other starch. Better to use low carbohydrate vegetables with lean meats if you are combining food types. Salmon with sauteed peppers, onions, spinach, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon would be a food combination that is acceptable.

When eating foods with significant amounts of carbohydrates, avoid adding any high protein. The combination of starch with protein (including dairy) is said to make you sluggish and bloated, with your metabolism playing tug of war as your body tries to digest foods that are quintessentially different and require entirely different chemical processes to digest.

Adapting Shoku Iku To a Western Diet

Ideally, shoku iku will cause you to digest your food optimally and efficiently, and the right combination of foods should improve digestion and promote gut health. Staying at a healthy weight is a bonus of correctly combining foods. The principle of eating the right foods in the right combinations is a base idea of shoku iku.

Ideas that can help adapt a western diet to shoku iku principles:

  • Lean cuts of grass-fed beef are encouraged, instead of fattier cuts of grain-fed beef because the fats it contains are considered healthier than grain-fed beef.
  • Olive oil, instead of other oils, is encouraged in cooking and eating. It contains cancer-fighting polyphenols
  • Coconut might be high in saturated fat, but it contains a nutrient called lauric acid that helps fight high cholesterol.
  • Dark chocolate: westerners are known for their sweet tooth, so dark chocolate is a great substitute when eaten in moderation. It is considered healthier for several reasons and is lower in sugar.
  • Almond butter is another way to deal with the classic western sweet tooth. Almond butter, used in moderation, is yummy—and healthier than peanut butter or other sugary spreads. Don’t be afraid to eat a spoonful to combat the urge to cheat with a big slice of cake.
  • Avocado is great for combating hunger and has lots of healthy fats. Remember: it is very fatty, so you probably shouldn’t get down with 2 or 3 avocado toasts a day, if you want to keep your overall fat intake in check.
  • Greek yogurt is high in protein, and it helps Americans get their dairy fix without being too unhealthy. It’s full of healthy calcium for the ladies and is great for satisfying the hunger for long periods of time, as well.
  • Wild-caught salmon contains lots of omega 3 fatty acids: a nutrient that is good for cardiac health.

If you are looking for a healthy diet that doesn’t require calorie counting or other tedious, gimmicky methods to find your perfect, well-balanced diet plan, you might want to give shoku iku a try.

The most solid part of this eating plan is the inclusion of as many plant-based, unprocessed foods as possible, with junk food becoming a rare treat (or, ideally, something that never makes its way onto your weekly menu).